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Act IV, Scene 1
Grumio arrives at Petruchio’s country house before his master and his bride. He has come ahead to make certain everything is ready for their arrival. He greets Curtis, another servant of Petruchio, and bids him to build a fire, for he is cold and tired. He complains about the difficulties of the trip from Padua. When Curtis questions him about the details, Grumio reveals that Katherine’s horse stumbled, threw her into the mud, and then fell on top of her. Petruchio did not bother to help her get up. Instead, he beats Grumio for letting the horse flounder. Katherine tries to protect Grumio by speaking up for him. Curtis comments that Petruchio has turned into more of a shrew than Katherine.
Petruchio arrives and criticizes Grumio for not having had anyone out to welcome the couple home. Petruchio orders dinner and then finds fault with everything. He does not like his food and tosses the meat across the stage; he strikes two of the servants, one for removing his boots and one for spilling a little water. Katherine is aghast at Petruchio’s cruelty, defends the servants, and tries to calm her husband down. Petruchio and Kate leave the dinner, for he says it is unfit for her to eat, even though she is very hungry after her long and trying journey. In a soliloquy at the end of the scene, Petruchio compares his taming of Kate to taming a falcon.
Grumio’s soliloquy and his conversation with Curtis indicate that Petruchio’s plan for taming Kate has begun in earnest and is having some affects. His rude behavior has definitely caught her attention, and she starts sympathizing and defending the injured parties, such as the servants. When the horse falls upon her, Petruchio chastises Grumio for the incident, and Katherine comes to his defense. When Petruchio strikes the servants, she accuses him of cruelty. For the first time in the play, she stops thinking solely of herself and begins to feel for others. She also complains much less; she is perfectly satisfied with the meal that Petruchio tosses across the room. It is obvious that she has begun to see a little of herself in Petruchio’s actions.
The scene is filled with comic moments. When Grumio explains the disasters of the trip from Padua and tells how Katherine has been tossed from her horse into the mud, the audience pictures the scene and laughs at her predicament. When Petruchio throws the meat across the stage, it is low comedy at its best. In trying to make a point to his wife, he uses intended exaggeration, which always brings a laugh. At the end of the scene, he explains that he is taming the shrew, much like he would tame a wild falcon. He will exact a change in her by rewarding appropriate behaviors that he sees in her.
It is important to notice that in the taming process, Petruchio never loses his cool with Katherine. In fact, he treats her kindly and continually says that nothing is good enough for her. Any inward anger towards his wife’s shrewish ways is always directed at his servants rather than at her. He finds relief by screaming at and beating them for silly and crazy things, like spilling a bit of water; but his anger is intentional and exaggerated to make a point to Kate.
It is also important to note that during the scene Petruchio summons his cousin, Ferdinand, to meet his bride; but the cousin never shows up and no further mention is made of him. Critics believe that a part of this scene has been accidentally lost or purposely deleted, without changing the reference to Ferdinand.